Harriet Jacobs is born in Edenton to enslaved parents. Around the age of 12, she becomes the property of a child, Mary Norcom, and lives in her family’s home. Norcom’s father, Dr. James Norcom, physically abuses Jacobs. Jacobs establishes a relationship with future US Congressman Samuel Sawyer and has two children with him. Enraged, Dr. Norcom removes Jacobs to a plantation from which she escapes. After living for seven years in the attic of her free grandmother, Jacobs escapes to New York where she writes Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861.
More than 250 Academies for Girls open in North Carolina during this time period. These institutions were open to white students.
The Raleigh Female Benevolent Society is officially incorporated. In 1823, the group released a revised constitution and by-laws that included society reports from the preceding two years. In Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History, Guion Johnson praises the society and its first director, Sarah Hawkins Polk. She writes, "She was the life of the organization until her death, and under her influence a thriving charity school for the instruction of orphan girls was maintained. [...] In 1846 the Raleigh Register thought the society was one of the most valuable influences in the life of the town" (p.163).
Emma Hart Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary, the first endowed school for girls, in Troy, New York.
Catherine Ann Devereux is born in Halifax County. A member of the wealthy antebellum elite, she keeps a journal during the Civil War that is published in 1979.
The General Council of the Cherokee Nation goes against tribal tradition of gender equality by drafting a constitution patterned after that of the United States which excludes women from holding office and denies them franchise.
After New York abolishes slavery, Isabella Baumfree changes her name and begins crusading for abolition, temperance, prison reform, women’s suffrage, and better working conditions. As Sojourner Truth, she becomes a famous figure at antislavery meetings.
A North Carolina enslaved man named George Moses Horton publishes his first book of poetry, The Hope of Liberty. Horton later will become famous for writing acrostic poems for students at the University of North Carolina.
A hero to the “common people” as a frontiersman and Indian fighter, Andrew Jackson is elected to two terms as president of the United States. Jackson’s ideas against a strong federal government and federal involvement in internal improvements become the basis of a new Democratic Party. (Many of these Democrats later became members of the Democratic-Republican Party.) Around the same time, North Carolinian Nathaniel Macon promotes the agrarian lifestyle and states’ rights ideals of this party.
Many of North Carolina’s first private colleges are started by members of religious groups: Wake Forest by the Baptists in 1834, New Garden Boarding School (which later became Guilford College) by the Quakers in 1837, Davidson by the Presbyterians in 1837, and Union Institute (which later became Trinity and then Duke) by the Methodists in 1839, just to name a few.
Most North Carolinians now live in the Piedmont and Mountain regions, the “west” of the time. But as mandated by the state’s constitution, which was written and approved in 1776, representatives from the Coastal Plain, or eastern part of the state, control the government and prevent reforms and improvements that could help the west grow. Reformers are beginning to threaten bold actions if a convention to change the constitution is not authorized.
May 28, 1830
President Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act, calling for the resettlement of all Native Americans to lands west of the Mississippi River.
Montfort Stokes (Democratic-Republican, Democrat) serves as governor. A supporter of Andrew Jackson and his new Democratic Party, Stokes disagrees with fellow Democrat Nathaniel Macon over slavery, saying he would join any movement to abolish it through the United States Constitution. Stokes was nominated for governor in 1824 and 1828 before being elected by the legislature in 1830 and 1831.
Christopher Bechtler establishes a private mint in Rutherford County. By 1857, the Bechtler Mint will produce more than $3,600,000 in gold coins, in addition to tons of gold jewelry. (see 1848)
Cyrus Hall McCormick demonstrates a new invention that cuts fourteen times as much grain as is possible by hand. His “reaper” will be as revolutionary to grain farmers in the North and the new West as the earlier cotton gin (1793) was to southern cotton growers.
The General Assembly passes a law forbidding African American preachers from speaking at worship services where enslaved people owned by different masters are in attendance. Other harsh new slave codes are also passed to tighten control over North Carolina’s slaves.
January 1, 1831
The Liberator is first published in Boston, Massachusetts. It is edited and published by William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist.
June 21, 1831
A fire in Raleigh destroys the state capitol and the famed statue of George Washington by Antonio Canova that was inside it.
Nat Turner, an enslaved preacher in Virginia, leads some twenty followers on a bloody revolt through Southampton County, Virginia, just north of the North Carolina border. Their march will end with the slaughter of fifty-seven whites and the November executions of Turner and his followers. Turner’s execution is the most noted since Denmark Vesey and thirty-five conspirators were executed in South Carolina for planning an uprising in 1822.
September 18, 1831
In Maryland, a widely publicized race is held between two of the most common modes of power—horse and steam. The horse wins when the locomotive Tom Thumb springs a boiler leak. Mechanical breakdowns are very common in these early days of rail travel.
Alexis de Tocqueville visits the United States from France and analyzes the American system of government. He is impressed by attempts to have both liberty and equality.
February 1, 1832
Archibald DeBow Murphey, North Carolina’s leader of internal improvement and educational reform, dies.
David Lowry Swain (no party affiliation at this time, but later Whig) is elected by the legislature to serve as a figurehead governor, just to prevent a Democrat from serving. But Swain uses his position to promote railroad construction and constitutional reform and becomes popular enough to be elected unanimously to a second term and narrowly to a third. In five terms as a representative from Buncombe County to the state house of commons from 1824 to 1830, Swain became known as a champion for western interests, especially efforts to create more western counties and therefore increase the west’s voting power in the legislature. In 1835, he will become president of the University of North Carolina, where he will expand classes to include law, modern languages, and agricultural chemistry.
Oberlin College becomes the first coeducational college in the United States. In 1841, Oberlin awards the first academic degrees to three women.
Lucretia Mott and other women form the Female Anti-Slavery Society to have a say in how the abolition movement is being organized.
Frankie Silver is convicted for the murder of her husband in present-day Mitchell County. She becomes the first woman in North Carolina to be executed by hanging
Ethel H. Porter, of Lincolnton, patents her invention related to cutting feed for horses and cattle. This was the first known patent issued to a North Carolina woman.
A year after its formation nationally, the Whig Party is organized in North Carolina. Originally its North Carolina members are yeoman farmers and merchants in the Mountain region and the backcountry Piedmont who want constitutional reform and internal improvements in the state. Many are former Federalists who favor a strong federal government, a national bank, and tariffs on imports.
Richard Dobbs Spaight Jr. (Democrat) is the last governor elected to a one-year term by the state’s legislature. Nominated by his party to run for a second term, he will lose the vote of the people, probably because of his opposition to internal improvements.
June 4–July 11, 1835
A convention is held in Raleigh to update the state’s 1776 constitution. While Nathaniel Macon, the honorary leader of the state’s old aristocracy, is chosen as the convention’s president, David L. Swain and William Gaston are probably the most influential delegates. Amendments redistribute voting power between east and west, provide for amending the constitution without calling a convention, and change voting requirements and terms for governor.
July 8, 1835
The Liberty Bell cracks in Philadelphia while tolling the death of John Marshall, chief justice of the Supreme Court.
The Treaty of New Echota is signed by some representatives of the Cherokee Nation. In it, the signers agree to move the Cherokee to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) as long as the United States pays for resettlement.
Lunsford Lane has saved $1,000—enough money to buy his freedom from his Raleigh owner. At this time, though, North Carolina’s enslaved people can be freed only for “meritorious service to the state,” a decision made in county courts. Lane arranges instead for his wife’s owner to buy him and take him to New York, where he can receive his freedom papers. In 1840, after saving a down payment on the $2,500 he needs to buy his wife and children (the value set by their owners), Lane returns to Raleigh, where he hopes to live with them while paying installments on their purchase. Once again, however, Lane is forced to leave the state because of laws and codes in place at the time. Back in the North, Lane speaks at antislavery meetings to earn the rest of the money he needs. But when he travels back to Raleigh in April 1842 to complete the purchase and escort his family home to the North, he is attacked, beaten, tarred and feathered, and almost hanged for his abolitionist activities in the North. White friends help the family escape on a north-bound train. Lane will never return to his home state.
December 15, 1836
A fire destroys the United States Patent Office—168 volumes of records, almost 9,000 drawings, and about 7,000 models. Congress will provide $100,000 to replace as many records as inventors can furnish and to rebuild 3,000 of the more interesting models. In 1840, construction on a new building, inspired by the Parthenon in Greece, will begin.
For the first time, North Carolina voters (not members of the legislature) elect a governor—Edward B. Dudley, a Whig from New Hanover County. Whigs gain control of state government and adopt a progressive plan for internal improvements such as building roads and railroads, dredging rivers, and draining swamplands and for public schools. Much of this plan is based on ideas that Archibald DeBow Murphey proposed from 1815 to 1818. Whig governors will serve until 1851: Dudley, John Motley Morehead, William A. Graham, and Charles Manly.
Samuel Colt begins production of his new six-cylinder revolving pistol, which will become known as a revolver. In order to fill orders, he expands on Eli Whitney’s concepts of interchanging parts and mass production. Orders to supply troops in the Mexican War (see 1846–1848) will save his company.
Edward Bishop Dudley (Whig), a leader in forming the Whig Party in North Carolina and in creating the company that will build the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, serves as governor. Dudley is also known for supporting constitutional reform and educational improvement.
Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and 185 other Americans die defending the Alamo, a mission in San Antonio, in the first major battle for Texan independence from Mexico. More than 20,000 settlers, many of them North Carolinians, and about 1,000 slaves had come to live in the northern province of Mexico called Texas. When frictions developed between these American settlers and the Mexican government, the American citizens began a movement for independence from Mexico. Only months after the Alamo, Americans will establish the Republic of Texas and request annexation by the United States.
June 15, 1836
Arkansas becomes the twenty-fifth state.
January 26, 1837
Michigan becomes the twenty-sixth state.
Martin Van Buren (Democrat) is accused of bringing elegance and arrogance back to the presidency when the Panic of 1837 brings on a severe economic depression.
Most of the Cherokee in the mountains of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina (the Cherokee Nation) are removed on the Trail of Tears to present-day Oklahoma. North Carolina’s Oconaluftee Cherokee, however, are allowed to remain on their rugged mountain land.
Greensboro College, North Carolina’s first chartered college for women, is opened and operated by the Methodist Church.
December 28, 1838
Greensborough Female College is chartered by the Methodists.
Raleigh’s John Rex, a wealthy planter, dies and designates part of his estate to send his enslaved people back to Africa, if they wish to go. Some of those who do go will later return to North Carolina.
The General Assembly approves legislation for the first free public schools in the state. The state will furnish $40 for every district that furnishes a building and $20 in local tax money. That $60 will pay for a teacher for two or three months. The first of these “common” schools will open in 1840, and by 1846, every county in the state will have at least one common school. By 1850, more than 100,000 students will be taking classes in 2,657 common schools across the state.
An enslaved man named Stephen, owned by Abisha Slade of Caswell County, discovers a new process for curing tobacco, by using charcoal to heat it quickly and intensely. This process causes leaves to turn a bright golden color, a product known as bright-leaf tobacco.
Robert Strange of Fayetteville writes Eoneguski; or,
The Cherokee Chief: A Tale of Past Wars, by an American, a romance about pioneers in the Mountain region and their changing attitudes toward the Cherokee. It is the first novel to use North Carolina as a setting.
The first envelopes for mailing letters are made. Previously, letters were folded over and addressed on the back side.
A large out-migration of Quakers leaves their North Carolina farms for territories farther west. Other farmers have been leaving the state since the 1820s for cheaper and more fertile lands in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.
Mary Jane Patterson, the first African American woman in the United States to receive a B.A. degree is born in Raleigh.
North Carolina’s new Capitol opens in Raleigh after nearly seven years of work to replace the building that burned in 1831. The “experimental railway” that carried its stone from a quarry more than a mile away was the first of its kind in the state.
The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad and the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad are completed. Both lines were funded by the state because not enough private investors could be convinced to risk their own money. Unfortunately, both lines lose money in their early years, making leaders cautious about putting more state money into funding other internal improvements. But by the 1850s, both will earn more money than they spend, and the state will help pay for more railroads and plank roads.
John Motley Morehead’s strong support for improving transportation in western North Carolina makes him a natural Whig governor for the time. Progress during his two terms is slowed by a Democratic majority in the General Assembly.
William Henry Harrison, the first Whig candidate elected president, serves only one month before dying in office. Vice president John Tyler will succeed him, but his independent actions and political philosophies will soon alienate him from his Whig supporters.
Mary Norcott Bryan is born in New Bern. Bryan's memoir, A Grandmother's Recollections of Dixie (1912?), offers a wide-ranging, sometimes sentimental description of an antebellum southerner's perspective on her land, history, and culture. The work is presented as a collection of letters to her grandchildren. In these letters, Bryan remembers being a refugee during the Civil War, and paints a grim picture of Reconstruction, which she believed was worse than the war itself. Her letters also include anecdotes from North Carolina history.
Georgia physician Crawford Long begins experimenting with controlled doses of ether to provide painless surgery.
Harriet Jacobs, an Edenton slave, is smuggled aboard a ship to escape slavery after spending seven years hiding in a tiny attic room in her grandmother’s house. She escapes to New York, where she buys the freedom of her children. She later writes Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Saint Mary’s School for girls opens in Raleigh and has been in continuous operation since this time. It is associated with the Episcopal Church.
William Woods Holden becomes editor of Raleigh’s North-Carolina Standard. He will lead the Standard to become the state’s top Democratic Party newspaper by using it to defend “the common people.”
Charles Dickens publishes A Christmas Carol in America.
Charles Goodyear patents his process of vulcanizing rubber, which makes it useful at all normal temperatures. He now advocates using rubber for everything from clothing to bathtubs!
May 24, 1844
Samuel F. B. Morse sends a message from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland, by using a new invention called a telegraphic apparatus, later shortened to telegraph.
North Carolina opens a school for the deaf and mute.
Edgar Allan Poe publishes two of his most successful collections: Tales, which includes “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and The Raven and Other Poems.
William Alexander Graham (Whig) serves as governor. Even during this time, feelings are strong on both sides of the North-South debates over slavery and other sectional issues. Graham favors the unionist arm (in favor of keeping the United States together) of the Whig Party, even though he owns three plantations worked by slave labor. In 1852, he will be nominated as the Whig vice presidential candidate, and after Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860, Graham will urge North Carolinians to remain in the Union and rely on the federal Constitution to protect their rights. Unable to stand entirely behind either the Union or the Confederacy, Graham will stand out as a states’ rights supporter and opponent of Confederate president Jefferson Davis even while serving as a Confederate senator.
As president, North Carolina– born James Knox Polk (Democrat) fulfills the United States dream of Manifest Destiny by promoting the annexation of Texas, winning the Mexican Cession, and gaining control of the Oregon Country south of 49° north latitude (the forty-ninth parallel). The nation now stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.
March 3, 1845
Florida becomes the twenty-seventh state.
December 29, 1845
After years as an independent republic (see 1836), Texas becomes the twenty-eighth state and ignites the final spark that starts the Mexican War.
Congress establishes the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The Eastern Exchange Hotel opens in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the first public building heated by steam.
General Zachary Taylor (see also 1849–1850) commands American forces in the Mexican War. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ends the war, the United States settles disputes over the southern border of Texas and gains lands that will eventually form the southwestern states. The victory has a sour note, though—northerners do not want these new lands open for slavery, southerners do.
December 28, 1846
Iowa becomes the twenty-ninth state.
Dorothea Dix visits North Carolina and, with the assistance of state legislator James C. Dobbin and his wife, Louisa, manages to persuade the state to construct a state hospital for the “insane.” The asylum will open in 1856.
July 19–20: The world’s first women's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. A Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions is debated and ultimately signed by 68 women and 32 men, setting the agenda for the women's rights movement that follows.
When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brings the Southwest under U.S. law, married women living in the region lose their property rights and can no longer enter into contracts, sue in court, or operate their own businesses.
Astronomer Maria Mitchell becomes the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; almost a century passes before a second woman is elected.
Dorothea Dix spends three months in North Carolina studying the treatment of the unfortunate and lobbying the state government to build a hospital for the mentally ill. Her persistence and persuasion are rewarded in 1856, when the state legislature makes its first appropriation to a hospital for the insane.
North Carolina legislators reduce the number of crimes punishable by death from twenty-eight to twelve. These “capital” crimes still include murder, arson, burglary, dueling, and stealing a slave or a horse. Other crimes are now punishable by mutilation, jailing, branding, flogging, and stocking.
With one thousand miners working at Gold Hill in Rowan County, a federal mint making coins in Charlotte, and a private mint owned by Christopher and Augustus Bechtler in Rutherford County producing gold coins and jewelry (see 1831), North Carolina plays an important role in America’s gold industry.
David Settle Reid runs for governor as a Democrat only after being assured he may also support a reform called free manhood suffrage, which would remove the requirement that a man must own fifty acres before he can vote for state senators. Reid loses to Whig Charles Manly by only 854 votes but will win in 1850 using the same platform.
May 29, 1848
Wisconsin becomes the thirtieth state.
Susan B. Anthony addresses a women’s convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Such topics as voting, property rights, and divorce are debated. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are the organizers.
Charles Manly (Whig) serves as governor.
North Carolina’s General Assembly charters the North Carolina Railroad, which will run 223 miles between Goldsboro, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte. At an expense of almost $5,000,000, $3,000,000 paid by the state, it will open in 1856. The line is an immediate success—it allows easy transportation for moving the produce of Piedmont farmers, spurs the growth of towns and factories along its route (which will become known as the Piedmont Crescent), and helps reduce feelings of isolation and sectionalism. Perhaps most importantly, the North Carolina Railroad makes residents proud of their state and marks the end of its backward, Rip Van Winkle image.
The California gold rush begins, ending North Carolina’s dominance in the gold industry (see 1848).
Amelia Jenks Bloomer publishes and edits Lily, the first prominent women's rights newspaper.
Elizabeth Smith Miller appears on the streets of Seneca Falls, New York, in "turkish trousers," soon to be known as "bloomers."
Though a slaveholding southerner, Zachary Taylor (Whig) is determined to halt the spread of slavery into new territories during his presidency.
His death in office allows a compromise that reduces sectional tensions for a time (see September 9, 1850).
North Carolinian Gregory Seaworthy (a pseudonym for George Higby Throop) publishes two books, Nag’s Head; or, Two Months among “The Bankers”: A Story of Sea-Shore Life and Manners and Bertie; and , Life in the Old Field: A Humorous Novel, that provide a glimpse into the wealthy planter lifestyle and living conditions of the time.
Millard Fillmore (Whig) succeeds Zachary Taylor as president upon Taylor’s death in office. Fillmore avoids war between North and South by enforcing the Compromise of 1850 (see September 9, 1850).
The Democratic Party has now become the party in favor of change and progress in North Carolina. In control of both the General Assembly and the governorship, Democrats continue many of the Whig programs of internal improvements. During this decade, another 641 miles of railroads will be built, and navigation companies will be chartered to operate ferries and steamboats along the coast. The longest plank road ever built will run from Fayetteville to High Point, Salem, and Bethania.
Two northern authors tour the South, including North Carolina, and provide northern readers with a picture of life here: New York City newspaper reporter Frederick Law Olmsted and author David Hunter Strother. Strother, using the pseudonym Porte Crayon, also sketches as he documents his journeys.
The first national women's rights convention attracts over 1,000 participants to Worcester, Massachusetts, from as far away as California. Only lack of space keeps hundreds more from attending. Annual national conferences are held through 1860 (except 1857).
Quaker physicians establish the Female (later Woman's) Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to give women a chance to learn medicine. Because of threats against them, the first women graduate under police guard.
September 9, 1850
The Compromise of 1850 marks the second major compromise (see 1854) to ease tensions between northern and southern (or antislavery and proslavery) groups in the United States Congress. One of the several bills that became known as the Compromise of 1850 admits California to the Union as a free state. Free (or northern) states now outnumber slave (or southern) states in the Senate, sixteen to fifteen. In exchange, a new, stricter fugitive slave law is adopted (see 1850). Also according to the compromise, the remainder of the Mexican Cession is to be divided into the New Mexico Territory and the Utah Territory. The territories will be allowed to decide their own direction on the slave issue when they apply for statehood, a concept known as popular sovereignty.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, part of the Compromise of 1850 (see September 9, 1850) calls for federal commissioners to be appointed and given authority to issue warrants, gather slave hunters, and force citizens to help catch runaway slaves under penalty of a fine or imprisonment. Accused runaways now will be denied both a jury trial and the right to testify in their own behalf. The law forces many southern abolitionists and northerners who had previously been able to ignore the issue of slavery to face it on a new level. In fact, eight northern states will pass “personal liberty laws” in the next eight years that will allow them to get around the federal law.
Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes The House of the Seven Gables, and Herman Melville publishes Moby-Dick.
In addition to the construction of plank roads, turnpikes, and railroads, the two terms of Governor David Settle Reid (Democrat) see the establishment of a position for superintendent of common schools (see 1853–1865).
Sojourner Truth gives her spontaneous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech at the women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio.
Myrtilla Miner opens the first school to train black women as teachers, in Washington, D.C.
Antoinette Brown (later Blackwell) becomes the first American woman ordained as a minister in a Protestant denomination, serving two First Congregational Churches in New York.
Though a skillful orator, President Franklin Pierce (Democrat) seems not to understand the sectional conflicts of the day and loses support over his handling of activities in Kansas (see 1855–1856).
Edwin Michael Holt’s textile mill at Great Falls in Alamance County becomes the first in the South to manufacture colored cotton fabric. His “Alamance plaids” are popular even in the North.
The Crystal Palace Exposition of the Industries of All Nations in New York City is the first American attempt to display national pride and dreams on a World’s Fair level.
October 18–21, 1853
The first North Carolina agricultural fair is held in Raleigh. Local fairs, agricultural magazines and books, improved “scientific farming” methods, and new mechanical devices have recently led to higher yields and greater profits on North Carolina’s exhausted farmlands.
December 30, 1853
James Gadsden negotiates the purchase of a strip of land from northern Mexico to complete the land area of the southwestern United States.
Calvin Henderson Wiley serves as North Carolina’s state superintendent of common schools. He sets up programs for training and licensing teachers, improves the quality of buildings and textbooks, edits the North Carolina Journal of Education, and writes the North Carolina Reader, a collection of history, geography, and economics. By 1860, nearly 120,000 students are attending more than 3,000 schools staffed by more than 2,700 licensed teachers.
Elias Howe and Isaac Merrit Singer join forces to make the sewing machine a profitable and popular innovation that forever changes the way clothes are made.
May 30, 1854
The Kansas-Nebraska Act is the third major compromise between northern and southern (or proslavery and antislavery) groups in Congress. The Kansas-Nebraska Act actually repeals the first, the Missouri Compromise of 1820. (The Missouri Compromise had eased sectional tensions by allowing Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state. The Missouri Compromise had also prohibited slave states from being created in the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase that was north of 36° 30' north latitude.) The Kansas-Nebraska Act now divides the remaining lands of the Louisiana Purchase into the Kansas Territory and the Nebraska Territory and will allow the residents of those territories to decide on the issue of slavery when they apply for statehood, a concept known as popular sovereignty.
As speaker of the state senate, Warren Winslow (Democrat) finishes the term of Governor David Settle Reid, who resigns to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate.
Slave codes in force at this time in North Carolina prohibit African Americans from showing disrespect to white persons; trespassing on the property of whites; marrying free blacks; forging passes used to move about in rural areas or within towns; hiring out services themselves; running away; raising horses, cattle, hogs, or sheep; selling alcohol; gambling; hunting with a gun; setting a fire; and selling property without written permission.
Lucy Stone becomes the first woman on record to keep her surname after marriage, setting a trend among like-minded women, who become known as "Lucy Stoners."
In Missouri v. Celia, a female slave is declared to be property without a right to defend herself against a master's act of rape.
Laura Elizabeth Lee Battle is born in Clayton. In 1909, she published Forget-Me-Nots of the Civil War; A Romance, Containing Reminiscences and Original Letters of Two Confederate Soldiers, a collection of papers and sketches. Her narrative begins with the story of her birth and continues with her two half-brothers' decisions to join the Confederate army despite their father's open support of the abolitionist movement. In the final section of the narrative, Battle describes her family's struggle to survive after the war.
Bloody and violent raids between proslavery and antislavery groups in Kansas result in the nickname Bleeding Kansas. Congress refuses to acknowledge, support, or punish either group.
Thomas Bragg serves two terms as governor. As a Democrat, Bragg experienced difficulty getting into state politics from Northampton County, a Whig stronghold. Once in office, he champions the free manhood suffrage amendment, which expands the state’s electorate to include all white men.
Two transportation milestones are reached in the state when the North Carolina Railroad opens (see 1849), connecting Goldsboro with Charlotte, and the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal is started.
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s second major novel, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, is published. While Stowe has never visited North Carolina, she uses a Chowan County plantation as the setting of this story about a runaway slave who hides out in a swamp.
The free manhood suffrage amendment passes in North Carolina, abolishing the requirement that a man own fifty acres to be permitted to vote for state senators.
Best known as “the president before Lincoln,” James Buchanan (Democrat) faces a storm that perhaps no one could have kept under control. Unable to commit to either side, he once said that “No State has the right to secede, but the Government has no right to coerce it to stay.” Buchanan could not stop the Union from falling apart.
The “Dred Scott decision” is another illustration of sectionalism in the United States during antebellum times. Dred Scott, an African American enslaved man from Missouri, had once accompanied his master to parts of the free North. As a result of these travels, Scott sued for his freedom on the grounds that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (see May 30, 1854) prohibited slavery in some of the areas he and his master visited. In the Supreme Court’s split decision, justices first declare that slaves are not citizens and therefore cannot file lawsuits. They then state that temporary residence in free lands does not make a slave free because the Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional—slaves are property, and the Fifth Amendment forbids Congress from taking property without “due process of law.” Proslavery forces in the South are excited because they now have the support of the United States Supreme Court in carrying their slaves into the western territories. Northerners are shocked, because the Missouri Compromise had already been replaced in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
May 11, 1858
Minnesota becomes the thirty-second state.
As governor, John Willis Ellis (Democrat) supports internal improvements such as the maintenance of plank roads and completion of navigation works on the Cape Fear and Deep Rivers. One high point in his administration is escorting President James Buchanan to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to deliver the commencement address in June 1859. After being elected to a second term and refusing to fulfill President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops, Ellis dies in office. He will be succeeded by Henry Toole Clark, who was serving as speaker of the state senate.
February 14, 1859
Oregon becomes the thirty-third state.
A few guests begin using the first passenger elevator in a New York City hotel. Afraid of getting stuck or falling, though, most guests continue to use the stairs.
Abigail Carter, of Clinton, North Carolina, invents a pair of overalls designed for her husband, who was a railroad engineer. These sturdy overalls wore so well that other railroad men began asking for them. Carter opened a business and became the first manufacturer of overalls in the United States.
August 27, 1859
The first oil well begins production in Pennsylvania. Oil and kerosene will quickly replace whale oil and candles as lighting sources in homes.
Already regarded as a dangerous fanatic because of his activities in Bleeding Kansas (see 1855–1856), abolitionist John Brown leads a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (present-day West Virginia). His goal is to secure weapons and gunpowder to arm a revolt of local slaves. The raid is a failure, and he is later captured and hanged.
The first mail run of the Pony Express leaves St. Joseph, Missouri, on April 2. Horseback riders will deliver this mail in Sacramento, California, on April 13. As speedy as this delivery is, it will be replaced in October 1861 when the transcontinental telegraph is completed.
Abraham Lincoln is elected president.
December 1860–February 1861
Seven southern states—South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas—secede from the United States and form the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis is chosen as president. Their provisional constitution forbids any law limiting slavery.
February 28, 1861
North Carolina voters choose to remain in the Union by defeating an option to hold a constitutional convention to discuss secession. A constitutional convention is needed to repeal the Ordinance of 1789 that ratified the United States Constitution and joined North Carolina with the Union as the twelfth state.
March 4, 1861
Abraham Lincoln takes office as president of the United States of America. In his Inaugural Address, Lincoln pledges not to interfere with slavery in the states where it currently exists. But he also declares the Union “indivisible” and vows to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution of the United States.
April 12–13, 1861
South Carolina and Confederate troops attack Union troops at Fort Sumter, off the coast of South Carolina. When United States president Abraham Lincoln asks for troops from all the Union’s states, which still includes North Carolina, to force the “rebel” states back into the Union, Governor John W. Ellis (see 1859–1861) will refuse to supply North Carolinians to fight sister states in the South.
Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia secede and join the Confederacy following Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops.
May 20, 1861
Delegates to a secession convention vote to amend the state constitution and remove North Carolina from the Union. They also ratify the provisional constitution of the Confederate States of America. With this action and the beginning of war, North Carolina’s antebellum era comes to a tragic end.